Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Math and the Media: A Mathemagician?

To some, possibly any and all math is simply magic. It seems to work and who knows what is really going on behind the math doers back. Then you learn the "trick" and it all seems perfectly natural. Until the next "trick", that is....

On the late night satirical news program "The Colbert Report" tonight (January 27, 2010, 11:30pm EST on Comedy Central) is Arthur Benjamin, a Hopkins bred mathematician (PhD in 1989) currently at Harvey Mudd College. A self-styled "mathemagician", he combines mathematics and magic to explore the power of mathematics through stunts and feats of mental agility.

You can visit the Hopkins Alumni page for this announcement (there is a neat video of one of his talks). Better yet, stop by Stephen's place for the show.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Summer Research Op....

This just came in across my desk.

A summer research opportunity for math majors, called the The Research in Industrial Projects (RIPS) Program, a venture of the Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics (IPAM) at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). The RIPS Program "provides an opportunity for exceptional students in math and related disciplines to work in teams on real world research projects by a sponsor from [either] industry or a national lab." From the website:
Projects are selected to have a major mathematical component and to be something that will pose an interesting challenge to talented undergraduates. Recent projects have included how to do a physics-based animation of a lava lamp, how to stitch together two images, how to analyze cancer data using microarrays, statistical data assimilation methods for weather data, modeling particle transport phenomena in reactors, and designing missions to the moons of Jupiter.
Recent projects have included organizations like Pixar, Microsoft, Symantec, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, among others.

Details can be found at, and the deadline for applying in February 15, 2010. Happy op hunting!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

So you want to teach?

Hey soon-to-be-math-major grads.....

Any interest in teaching? Building a career with good time off (think summers!), a relatively stress-free environment, stable career, and that good feeling one gets when you realize you are making a difference in someone else's life?

Math for America (MfA), an organization whose mission is "to improve math education in US public secondary schools by recruiting, training and retaining outstanding mathematics teachers", is offering five-year Fellowships to earn a Master's Degree in Mathematics Education and a teaching position. They are seeking 60 new fellows in the New York City area alone (with other opportunities in DC, Los Angeles and San Diego).

The New York City fellows will get their degree from MfA NY partner universities Bard College, NYU or the Teacher's College at Columbia.

The fellowship includes all tuition for the degree, a total five year stipend of 100K and a regular teacher's salary for the last four years of the fellowship. An excellent opportunity to be trained the right way. All of the contact information and application stuff is on the website. I have additional contact info with me, should you be interested.

They are actively looking for new fellows. Be a part of it?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Math in the Media - Teaching a Supreme...

Many common concepts and terms in mathematics are of general use outside of math. Think of adjectives like "tangental" and "functional". The mathematical definition and the non-mathematical meanings are usually quite similar.

Today in the Washington Post, Robert Blake writes of a recent exchange within the confines of a Supreme Court session. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy asked a question to University of Michigan law professor Richard D. Friedman. Friedman answered the question,

"but added that it was "entirely orthogonal" to the argument he was making in Briscoe v. Virginia.

Friedman attempted to move on, but Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. stopped him.

"I'm sorry," Roberts said. "Entirely what?"

"Orthogonal," Friedman repeated, and then defined the word: "Right angle. Unrelated. Irrelevant."

"Oh," Roberts replied.

A nice answer, as almost every first-year student here at Hopkins in engineering or the natural sciences can attest. No dot-product needed. It goes on:

Friedman again tried to continue, but he had caught the interest of Justice Antonin Scalia, who considers himself the court's wordsmith. Scalia recently criticized a lawyer for using "choate" to mean the opposite of "inchoate," a word that has created a debate in the dictionary world.

"What was that adjective?" Scalia asked Monday. "I liked that."

"Orthogonal," Friedman said.

"Orthogonal," Roberts said.

"Orthogonal," Scalia said. "Ooh."

Friedman seemed to start to regret the whole thing, saying the use of the word was "a bit of professorship creeping in, I suppose," but Scalia was happy.

"I think we should use that in the opinion," he said.

"Or the dissent," added Roberts, who in this case was in rare disagreement with Scalia.

See what Hopkins Math can offer you? Something to teach even a Supreme Court Justice.